Belfast Telegraph

East Belfast man arrested over hate crimes is released on bail

A man accused of having a sawn-off shotgun and nearly 800 rounds of ammunition can be released on bail, a High Court judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Treacy said despite the seriousness of the charges Robert Thompson should not remain in custody.

The 43-year-old was detained last month after a police unit probing suspected race hate crimes raided his Stracam Corner home in east Belfast.

Officers discovered almost 800 rounds of assorted ammunition, a pump action gun and silencer, prosecutors said.

The police operation was set up to investigate offences which, based on information, were allegedly orchestrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Thompson faces a single charge of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

He is not accused of any paramilitary involvement or race-hate offences.

Defence barrister Dennis Boyd stressed during the bail application that his client denies ever being associated with the UVF.

Thompson has no issues with foreign nationals either, the court hearing.

He claims any weaponry at his home was being kept there under threat.

Ruling on the bail application today, Mr Justice Treacy said:  "He makes a defence of duress which isn't for me to try.

"Notwithstanding the gravity of the charge it will be appropriate to release the applicant on bail."

Thompson was ordered to surrender his passport, report to police three times a week and abide by a night-time curfew.

The judge warned: "Given the seriousness of the charge, if there is any breach of his bail the matter will come back before me and almost certainly... he will go back into custody."

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